The importance of being eco-friendly is becoming more and more apparent for restaurants everywhere. Not only is being environmentally friendly obviously good for the planet, but it can help restaurants save money at the same time. Below are seven steps any restaurant can use to make their practices more eco-friendly.
Utilize Recycling and Compost Programs
Depending on your locality, your restaurant may be able to enroll in programs that offer free or reduced-cost recycling and compost for restaurants. According to the National Restaurant Association, most restaurants (60%) have some form of a recycling program in place already.
Rarer among restaurants is a procedure for composting, which can be tricky to implement in a commercial kitchen. Being able to create good compost isn’t hard, but it can be time consuming. Many also find the process of separating compostable material from non-compostable matter tedious. Still, many restaurants are able to find a way to compost. It doesn’t take up much space in a kitchen and can help divert food scrap waste from landfills. It won’t be easy, but your restaurant can surely overcome whatever hurdles you may have with composting with the right attitude and dedication.
Source Ingredients Locally
Farm-to-table concepts have been all the rage for years. But one doesn’t have to be a farmer with a restaurant to take advantage of your area’s local bounty. Agriculture is closer to most of the country than many would think. And with increased access to farmers’ markets in recent years, fresh produce, meats, cheeses, and mushrooms fresh from the farm have become increasingly easy to find. The USDA keeps a directory of farmers’ markets that you can consult to see if one is near you. And the best part of going local with ingredients, supply chain issues will become a thing of the past.
Monitor Water Usage
Droughts have increased in frequency and severity in recent years. This makes being savvy when it comes to water use all the more critical. Reduce water anywhere you can throughout the operation. Between dishwashing, restrooms, and cooking, there are plenty of ways that a restaurant can make things more efficient and save some water and money in the process.
Consider a Seasonal Menu
In addition to sourcing ingredients locally, another green idea is to consider a seasonal menu. Working with only local, seasonal ingredients has many benefits. It lessens the distance that elements will have to travel in order to reach your kitchen. The result is often a shrinking of your restaurant’s carbon footprint while procuring fresher food and better quality overall. Plus, a seasonal menu can be both a fun challenge to undertake culinarily as well as a way to keep your customers always coming back for something new.
Reuse Items Where Possible
Over 90% of plastic is never recycled. Almost all of this plastic is considered waste. This is why using reusable packaging and tableware is always a sound idea. This is because plastic versions of either are sent to landfills if they do not pollute the natural environment. Takeout containers can be multiuse or recyclable. They are clearly the better alternative when compared with polystyrene, or Styrofoam, containers—which are toxic to the environment and have never been recyclable curbside for most Americans.
And don’t be afraid to use reusable tins and pans where you can in the kitchen. There are plenty of options besides single-use foil or plastic. Many chefs have used silicone kitchenware for its versatility and heat resistance.
Reduce Food Waste
Food waste in the hospitality industry is a terrible problem. Every year, billions of dollars are wasted when food is thrown out. This isn’t the industry’s issue alone. The USDA estimated in 2010 that restaurants and consumers waste between 30 and 40% of the food supply. This is equal to $161 billion worth of food each year. Cutting down on this waste will save both restaurants and diners money.
Get Rid of Plastic and Paper
In addition to using reusable items mentioned above, restaurants should consider getting rid of plastic and paper wherever they can. Paper isn’t tricky to recycle or replace in most areas. Putting in hand dryers means paper towels can easily be nixed in the bathroom. And cloth napkins can be used instead of paper (most people even prefer them).
The more complex material to get rid of is plastic. Single-use plastic production has skyrocketed in recent years. More plastic was made in the early 2000s than in the previous 40 years. Plastic production has entered uses it has no place being. Luckily, there are alternatives. You can start by getting rid of plastic straws and switching over to the natural alternative agave straws. These straws are inexpensive and are virtually indistinguishable from their single-use plastic cousins.
Making Your Restaurant Eco-Friendly is Sure to Bring in the Green
By now, we hope you’ve come to agree that being environmentally conscious is a wise idea for any restauranteur to pursue. Any of the above steps can be implemented either piece-meal or in concert together. Once a restaurant starts down the path toward greening its operations, they aren’t likely to turn back. Because the benefits and savings that come with going eco-friendly will become so apparent that going back to doing things the old way would seem like madness!
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